On September 27th, when I was minutes from falling asleep, the cramps I had been having on and off for days seemed to come more consistently. I had a strong feeling that this was it. I managed to get about an hour of sleep before I was woken up by contractions. I knew this was it. I stayed awake the rest of the night practicing the J breathing I had learned. It helped manage the pain by focusing on the breathing. They were coming anywhere from every 3 to 6 minutes and lasting 35-60 seconds each time. I knew I had a while to go. When they came more consistently every 4 minutes, lasting 1 minute at around 6am, I figured it was time to call the midwife and give her an update and talk about when I should make the 50 minute drive down to the birth center. She told me since they were painful and coming regularly, and because it was my second baby and I lived so far, that I should get ready to head down immediately. In my gut I knew I was still hours away from birth, and after a lengthy labor with Roen I knew I wasn’t going to get lucky with a super speedy one just because it was the second baby. I was right. After a painful hour and 20 minute drive in rush hour traffic, we got to the birth center not knowing what to expect. The midwife checked me and I told her I didn’t want to know how dilated I was unless I was at at least a 5. I didn’t want to get discouraged if I was only at a 1 or 2. She encouraged us to go for a walk around Balboa Park and that I was too early into labor to be admitted. By now I was tired from only getting an hour of sleep, and the pain was intense. She told me to expect it to get worse. I couldn’t imagine being able to handle any worse of pain. It was already so brutal and I started to feel discouraged. Matt talked me into trying to walk down the street. We made it less than a block as I struggled to stand, with gravity pulling the baby down and making my contractions more intense and closer together. It was only 10am and all I wanted was to lay down and try to relax. We called our cousin who lived a few exits away from the birth center and she graciously let us retreat in the comfort of her home. From there, my contractions got more intense and came every 1-2 minutes. My body was tired and in so much pain that I threw up… a lot. I had oils diffusing and Matt put on relaxing music and drew me a bath. For the first time I had an ounce of relief. I never wanted to get out of the tub. I tried to eat but I couldn’t keep anything down. I continued to chug water. At around 2pm we decided it was time to head back to the midwife. I could barely walk from the pain. The car ride was brutal and I threw up again. Somehow Matt convinced me to let him stop at Starbucks before we arrived back at the birth center. I was hopeful to be 7cm dilated at least, and told the midwife again that I didn’t want to know what I was at unless it was a 7 or more. When she told me I wasn’t quite there but was close, I told her I wanted to give up and that I didn’t know how I could go on. (We later found out that I had been 5cm dilated when she checked me.) She gave me some options to manage the pain, one being that I was extremely dehydrated, based on a urine sample I gave, and that I needed an IV to restore all the fluid I had lost. It made sense since I had been throwing up so much of the water I had been chugging all day. She said that the IV would help with the dehydration and that it could help make me feel better and help me manage my contractions better. She also offered to call a volunteer doula, said that I could head up to the room and get in the bath, or if I wanted, I could go to the hospital. I didn’t want her to give me that last option because I wanted to take it so badly, but I figured with a doula, an IV, and a warm bath, I would be able to find some relief at the very least. At this point my contractions were on top of each other. I threw up again in between the midwife trying to find a good vein for the IV. After 4 attempts and 2 arms, she gave up on poking me because my veins were too tiny from being so dehydrated. Minutes later, the doula arrived. She was a breath of fresh air and my saving grace. I felt relief with her there, knowing she would help me remember my goals and help me through each contraction. Her hands were soft and relieved so much pain. She knew immediately after watching me go through a contraction that I was having a back labor. She applied counter-pressure and it felt amazing! This was a turning point for me, and I felt optimistic about being able to rock a natural birth for the first time all day. Plus, I think at this point I had gone through the transition phase and that I wasn’t far from pushing. When I got in the bath at around 3:45, the water wasn’t as warm as I had hoped. They quickly added hot water and immediately things started to get more intense and speeded up. I struggled to find a good position. A cold wash cloth on my head, running water down my back, and sips of ginger ale helped get me through the intense contractions that ensued until my sweet boy was delivered. Spa music was playing in the background. My husband, mom, 2 midwifes, a doula, and a nurse surrounded me but I barely felt anyone there. My eyes were closed as I focused on getting through each contraction. I remember realizing that I was pushing and announced it to everyone, looking for the midwifes’ approval since I hadn’t been checked since I was 5 centimeters. She said to trust my body. I don’t know why it was so hard for me to do that, but I did my best to let the contractions guide when and how long I pushed. What a difference that was from my hospital birth, pushing without anyone counting out, telling me how long each push should be. The midwife encouraged me to feel the baby’s head. I was confused when I had to reach into my cervix to actually feel it, but what a crazy feeling that was. (Sorry for the TMI, this is a birth story though..) I could just feel the top center of his squishy head making it’s way. Freaky and beautiful. My water broke during one of my big pushes. That was a weird feeling. I pushed for 25 minutes, or so I’m told, but I’m not sure how long I was pushing before I realized it and told everyone. It felt like 2 hours. It was a marathon. It was hard, painful, and I wanted to give up. My breathing was loud, despite always picturing myself being quiet and peaceful like I was when I pushed with Roen and like most of the women I watched in water birth videos. But being vocal helped. The midwife breathed with me in a deep “ooooh” sound. She helped me so much by doing that because it aided my concentration into the breathing rather than the pain, and this type of breathing helps open the cervix more easily. In desperation, I asked Matt to get in the tub with me. I didn’t plan on asking him because I knew he wasn’t too keen on being in that water, but he didn’t hesitate and threw on his swim trunks in lightning speed. I used his feet for leverage which helped me push. And when Gryffin’s head was born we looked down together in awe. As we sat there, it was a moment of peace and calmness in between contractions, and as time seemed to move slowly, I asked the midwife, “what now?” It seemed like the rest of Gryffin’s body would never come as we waited for the next contraction. The gap seemed longer than the previous contractions. “Do I just wait for the next contraction to push the rest of his body out?” I asked a bit nervously. Yep. That’s exactly what I did. Stared down at him as we waited and then another big contraction came, and here I was thinking that the hard part was over… but I pushed through the pain and could feel his little feet kicking on the way out. I met the midwife halfway with my arms to grab my new baby at 5:20pm on Thursday, September 28th. What a difference that was. Having him on my chest right away and rubbing his back to get a big cry. He was perfect. He looked so tiny to me. I thought he had to be smaller than Roen was. His hair was blonde and I couldn’t believe it. I exchanged a few words to Gryffin and then ran out of things to say because I couldn’t believe he was finally here after all that work, after feeling like he was never coming. His eyes looked straight into mine and I heard my giddy husband behind me in awe of what I just did, in awe of our new son. He kept telling me how amazing I was for doing it. The midwife started to drain the tub immediately after as we sat admiring our baby. We felt the cord pulsate, and we waited for it to completely stop before Matt cut it. Matt got out of the tub and had skin to skin with his son while I birthed the placenta. I got out of the tub and walked on my own. I didn’t have any pain. And I was walking! I went to the bathroom shortly after, dreading it after how painful and hard it was when I had Roen, but there was no pain! I was so amazed. I felt so good. Happy, energized, and complete. We ate, had tea, and weren’t bothered for an hour. Then a brief interruption of weighing the baby and taking our vitals. We were shocked to hear that I had birthed a baby who was 8 pounds, 6.5 ounces and 22 inches long. 3 ounces bigger than Roen and 2 inches longer. After four hours, we were able to leave the birth center if we wanted. We were ready to bring him home! There was no need to stay because we were healthy as can be. But just in case, they gave us a checklist of the vitals we needed to take on the baby and myself for the next 2 days at home. It was so nice to go home and sleep in my own bed with my baby by my side. No monitors, no nurses coming in constantly, just us. I did it, I had a water birth and brought our second healthy son into the world and our family is complete!
During the process I forgot my goals. I did want an epidural. I wanted the pain to end. I wanted to take a 3 day nap. I realized that I wasn’t one of the lucky women who have a fast and easy labor, or don’t feel pain with contractions until transition, while I feel immense pain starting at 1 centimeter! I doubted my ability to birth without pain, and ultimately my biggest downfall was the fear of pain itself. I kept thinking how I was so happy this was my last time giving birth because I didn’t know if I’d be able to do it naturally again. However, being able to feel my baby boy being born, seeing his head in between contractions, having my husband so involved in his birth, and being able to catch him if I wanted was such an amazing, empowering feeling. Comparing an epidural recovery to a natural birth recovery, the pain during labor was so worth not having pain after, aside from contractions during breastfeeding to shrink my uterus back down to normal (ouch, how did I forgot about that part?) It was so nice to be able to walk around, to stand up to grab my baby myself and keep my independence, rather than nurses handing him to me and swaddling or changing his diaper because I was so weak, and telling me when it was time to feed. I felt energized and happy and nothing could take that away, even the nights of nursing that lie ahead couldn’t take away how great I felt. I’m still relishing in those feelings. My sister noticed how much happier I look this time around. She said after I had Roen I looked and acted exhausted, and I was! Of course with Roen’s birth I was still in awe of what my body had done and the perfect newborn that God blessed me with, and I certainly don’t think any less of women who do choose to give birth with an epidural, but the feelings that ensued after my natural birth in comparison to my hospital birth is night and day. And the team I had for my natural birth felt like a family. I loved everyone involved and I’ll always be grateful for how they helped me accomplish a natural birth. Additionally, I wasn’t bullied into getting pitocin, breaking my waters, being told when and how to push, or nurses giving shots and antibiotic eye ointment to my newborn without my consent (this happens in hospitals ALL the time.) Knowing that I did what I was always afraid to do makes me feel so proud. And if you’re thinking about having a water birth, if I can do it you can definitely do it!